Joy Comes in the Morning: Chapter Five

Santa Meets the Dodsons.


Now what happened next is something no one is really certain about. Was it a dream or was it real? Santa claims that it was so real, he’ll never forget it. Martha says it’s a miracle. Sam simply says it just doesn’t matter. So I’ll let you decide.

As it turned out Santa was asleep when Mrs. Claus came to bed that night. The tension and pressure of his big decision had totally worn him out. In most cases when stress hits a person, they lie awake at night counting sheep, but when Santa gets uptight, he can fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

Well, just about five minutes after Martha finished her prayers, Santa awoke suddenly from his slumber. He rubbed his eyes, sat up in bed, and as he leaned over to pick up his glasses from the bed stand, he suddenly realized he was no longer in his bedroom. He slipped on his glasses and as he took a look around him, he saw that he was sitting on a long wooden bench, leaning over an even longer wooden table. At first, he thought he might be back at the Christmas dinner over at the North Pole Civic Auditorium.

“Maybe I just dozed off a bit during one of Sam’s long-winded toasts to Christmas past.” Santa thought to himself.

But no. This wasn’t the civic auditorium. And the voices he heard were not the voices of elves. The room was much smaller, with much less light. And wait. The people seated at the table were not elves. To his left sat a middle-aged lady wearing a yellow sweater with a few buttons missing off the sleeves. Across from her was an older gentleman with a scruffy set of grey and white whiskers that definitely needed a Christmas trimming. Before Santa could give the whole thing another thought, he was suddenly interrupted by a set of very small hands placing a very large dinner plate right in front of him.

“Here you go, sir. Enjoy your Christmas dinner.”

A small boy, no more than seven or eight, smiled as he pushed a white china plate in front of Santa. It was piled high with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course, Santa’s personal favorite, cranberry preserves.

“Would you like a corn muffin with that?” the young man asked.

“Yes, my dear boy.” Santa replied. “That sounds delicious.” Santa hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so he found himself saying yes to the young man before he actually had time to think much about what he was saying.

“Butter with that?”

“Why yes, thank you, son.” Santa said politely.

“How ‘bout a cup of coffee?” another voice asked.

Santa looked behind him and saw a middle-aged man who appeared to be helping to serve drinks to all of those people seated at his table. He had his hands full, balancing a stack of coffee cups, a coffee carafe, and a big handful of napkins. Before he could answer, the man had poured a steaming cup of coffee in a bright shiny mug that had ‘Merry Christmas’ running up all one side and down the other.

“Joy, can you give that gentleman a packet of sugar and creamer to go with his coffee?” the man asked, motioning to an even smaller child standing directly behind him. “Thanks Joy, for helping.”

“Well, sir,” the man with the coffee carafe continued. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you here at the shelter before. What’s your name?

Santa took a big gulp of the coffee, smiled and said, “My name is San…” He suddenly stopped. “I mean…ah…Nick.”

Joy, the little six-year-old girl with the sugar and creamer, giggled and said, “You almost said Santa! Are you really Santa?”

Santa, still a bit stunned at this unusual situation he found himself in, paused and said, “Well no, dear. My name is actually Nick. At Christmas time.” he continued. “I work a bit on the side being Santa in the mall. I’m so used to saying ‘I’m Santa’ to people, I forgot where I was.”

“Well, Santa,” the man with the coffee carafe laughed, “Or should I say, Nick. I’m Pastor Bruce. This is my daughter, Joy. And over there is my son, Edward. We’re glad we could serve you Christmas dinner tonight. It’s a cold Christmas Eve out there and we’re certainly happy you came down to the shelter to enjoy a meal with us.”

Now Santa had no idea what was going on around him. All the while he was wondering what in the world had happened to him. Despite his inner confusion, he was still very cordial and friendly to his new friends. Santa is like that, you know. Even when he has his mind on a million and one details, he can always enjoy the moment. Some folks call it being a good people person. Others call it the gift of blarney. But regardless of what you call it, Santa is the best at making a person he is talking with feel like he is the most important person in the world.

Joy was mesmerized by Nick’s appearance. From everything she could tell, this must be the real Santa. Edward was more realistic however, shrugging his shoulders as Nick began to ask more questions about the work they were doing at the shelter. Pastor Bruce had taught his children well to watch themselves around strangers and right now, Pastor Bruce was keeping a good eye on Nick, just to make certain his kids were not getting too enthralled with this old bearded man, dressed in red pants and suspenders.

“Where do you live, Nick?” asked Pastor Bruce. “Are you from around here?”

“Well, not exactly. I’m in town through Christmas, helping out at the mall.” Santa hated to make up this little white lie, but considering the circumstances, he was trying to adjust to the situation as quickly as he could. Santa never likes to be rude to people and he figured the best he could do right now was to give an answer that resembled somewhat his actual profession.

“So where’s home, Nick?” Pastor Bruce continued.

“Well, Pastor. I’ve moved around a lot through the years. I’ve lived mainly in the northern part of the country.” Santa continued. “I really enjoy winter. The snow and ice and all. How about you? Where are you from?”

“Well, my wife, that’s Carol over there serving up dessert, is from Indiana, and I’m from Iowa. We settled here about fifteen years ago. We pastor a small church just down the street from here.”

“Are you a church-goer, Nick?” Pastor Bruce inquired.

“Well sir, I’m glad you asked. Where I come from, the church is right down the street as well. I’m usually there on Sunday mornings, unless I’m out of town on business.”

“What kind of business, Nick?”

“Ahh…people.” Santa, or should I say Nick, said with certainty. “People business, Pastor Bruce. I love people and my job is help them out in any way I can. Years ago my dad told me, ‘Nick, don’t go around life hoping to get people to do something for you. No sir, Nick,’ he said. ‘Spend your life doing something nice for people, and most everything will work out well for you in life.’ I took that advice from my dad, many years ago, now. It’s worked pretty well for the most part, so far, I guess…”

“Well, sounds a lot like the work my wife and I do.” Pastor Bruce responded. “Helping people.”

“Say Nick, we’re having a Christmas Eve candlelight service over at the church at midnight. If you’re around, why don’t you walk on down to the church and join us. Lots of music and warm cider afterwards.”

Joy nodded with agreement upon hearing her dad’s invitation.

“My, my…Pastor,” Santa replied. “That sounds very fine.”

“I can’t guarantee it, but if I’m still here, I would be honored to join you and your family. Thank you, very much. And thank you for the conversation. Nothing better than good conversation to go with good food.”

Pastor Bruce reached under his apron, pulling out a few business cards with the church information on it. Just as he was handing one to Nick, Carol, his wife, ran up to the table with a cell phone in her hand. Bruce laid the business cards on the table and turned to greet his wife.

“Bruce, it’s Mary Willson, on the phone.” Carol explained. “She’s having a big problem with the heat at the duplex. She started a small fire in the fireplace and for some reason, the smoke is not going up and out the chimney. The living room is starting to fill up with smoke. She tried opening and closing the flue, but it’s just getting worse. She’s asking if someone can come over right away and help her. I’m stuck here in the kitchen…do you suppose you and the kids could go see what you can do?”

Nick tried to pretend as though he wasn’t listening to the conversation. He turned his attention over to Joy, asking her for another packet of creamer. Joy giggled and gave Nick two. Noticing that Pastor Bruce seemed a bit flustered by the news about Mary, Santa (excuse me, Nick) decided to speak up.

“Pastor Bruce. I can help out.” Nick said with confidence. “You remember I was telling you that my business is helping people. How can I help you here?”

“That’s OK, Nick.” Pastor Bruce replied. “We can handle this.”

Carol rolled her eyes and said, “Are you sure, Bruce? Maybe this nice gentleman can assist us?”

“I’d be glad to, Mrs. ah…”

“Dodson.” Carol said, extending her right hand toward Nick’s. “Hi there, I’m Carol Dodson. Nice to meet you. And you are…?”

“Nick. Nick Clau…der.” Again, not knowing what all he was getting himself into, Santa decided to stretch his name from Claus to Clauder.

“Well, nice to meet you Mr. Clauder.” Carol said. “Bruce, maybe Mr. Clauder can help Mary out?”

“Well, maybe you’re right, dear.” Pastor Bruce looked directly into Nick’s face. “Mr. Clauder…ahh…Nick, why don’t you hop in the car with me right now and we’ll drive over to the duplex and see if we can help Mary.”

“Carol,” Pastor Bruce said, looking back to his wife. “You tell Mary, we’ll be right over.”

Pastor Bruce laid the coffee mugs and coffee carafe on the table right next to his stack of business cards. “Kids, why don’t you put the trays right here with these kind folks and come with me? Hopefully we can get Mary fixed up before we have to be over at the church for the band rehearsal.”

Turning back toward Nick, Pastor Bruce asked, “Nick, are you ready?”

“Yes sir, Pastor Bruce. Let’s roll.”

As Carol helped the kids put on their winter coats, boots, and gloves, Joy noticed that Nick had no coat. In the hurriedness of the situation, no one else seemed to notice as they piled into the Dodson van and drove west on Central Street.

Click here to go on to Chapter Six…

As we celebrate the Advent season, I’d like to share with you one of my personal favorites, a Christmas-time short story I call…Joy Comes in the Morning: A Short Story for Christmas-Time Reading. You might want to bookmark our homepage to keep the whole story in one place! Enjoy!

Copyright & All Rights Reserved December, 2016

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